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paleontologists expected to find shells or shark teeth. this was quite a surprise. older fossils have been discovered in the area in recent years, but nothing as complete as this whale skeleton. "nbc nightly news" is next. we'll seyou ba center stage. sarah palin in iowa, a visit that's raising big questions about her future and the party's. drawing a crowd. of the faithful and the furious. >> we don't want him here! >> we don't want him here! >> strong words tonight from the pope in london. taking aim. hurricane igor bears down on bermuda as the cleanup begins in the wake of another killer storm. and miracle mom. a young mother of three defies death and now she's using her life to make a difference. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
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good evening. coming off of a drama of some of this week's state primary contests, believe it or not, not all the political focus these days is on the november midterm elections. the run-up to the 2012 presidential campaign is also slowly starting to build. tonight, those handicapping the potential republican challengers are trying to figure out what to make of sarah palin's high profile appearance this weekend in a place where presidential runs usually get off the ground. nbc's mike viqueira is in washington tonight to tell us more. mike. >> reporter: good evening, lester. sarah palin is on something of a role becoming a party king-maker while at the same time defying the republican establishment. now the question is will she, can she, try to parlay that popularity with the conservative base into a successful run for the oval office? for sarah palin, these are heady days. >> it's time for no more business as usual.
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it is time to take our country back. >> reporter: fresh off a string of primary victories for candidates she endorsed, palin got a raucous welcome last night from republican party faithful in iowa, site of the first presidential battleground, her appearance ignited a new round of speculation about her own designs on the white house. but in des moines, palin played coy. >> todd says, i don't know, i think you should go downstairs, run on that treadmill. i said why would i want to stay indoors? todd says, because i guarantee you, if anybody spots you in the tennis shoes, the headline's going to be "vanity fair," they're going to say palin in iowa decides to run. >> they call us wacky. they call us wingnuts. we call us we the people. >> reporter: by helping launch unknowns like delaware's christine o'donnell to a gop senate nomination, palin has emerged as a conservative king-maker.
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but her own path to the presidency is anything but clear. >> one thing i know. america will repudiate obama-style liberalism. >> reporter: seasoned candidates like mitt romney, newt gingrich and mike huckabee have already spent time in iowa wooing caucus goers. for palin to win there, veterans of state politics say her celebrity won't be enough. >> i think iowans expect you to make connections in iowa. different than a lot of states where you can breeze in, give a speech and then check out almost like a rock star. >> reporter: experts say palin is polarizing and her political base too narrow. >> she's clearly a force there but she has to broaden that appeal if she's going to run for president. >> reporter: it's a belief shared by many democrats. today, president obama enjoyed his usual saturday game of basketball and while aides insist the president isn't yet thinking about 2012, the spokesman is happy to assert that palin now sits atop the gop. >> i have no doubt that she is a formidable force in the republican party and may well be
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in all honesty, the most formidable force in the republican party right now. >> reporter: lester, to give you some idea of how crowded the gop for 2012 is already becoming, today a relative unknown, indiana's mike pence -- he's a republican congressman -- won a presidential straw poll in a convention of social conservatives. pence had delivered a rousing speech yesterday speaking to many of the issues that this group was concerned about. and sarah palin, who did not address the group, she came in dead last. lester? >> mike viqueira, thanks. tens of thousands of people took to the streets in london today as pope benedict continued his historic visit to the united kingdom. the crowds included the faithful as well as those protesting the child abuse scandal that has rocked the church in recent years. today, the pope addressed that scandal directly. nbc's nina desantos reports. >> reporter: at a mass in london, pope benedict made his strongest statement yet on the
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child abuse scandal that has dogged his papacy and shaken the catholic church. >> above all i express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes. >> reporter: the pope rarely looked up from his prepared text but his message was clear and his words powerful. >> i also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered. >> reporter: outside, 2,000 young catholics who had traveled from far and wide to hear his voice. young people are at the heart of the scandal. over the years it's alleged that thousands have been abused by priests and other church officials, and the pope has been under growing pressure to address the issue. today he confronted it personally meeting privately with five victims. but some say he also has to do more to punish the guilty and to prevent such abuse from happening again. >> his words just seem to be really hollow because unless
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action follows, they do become meaningless. >> reporter: even as the pope spoke, thousands of demonstrators gathered nearby, protesting not just the child abuse scandal, but also the position of the church on gay rights and birth control. but there was a warm welcome for the pope here as well. across town, some 80,000 gathered to participate in a papal vigil. the crowds here at hyde park pose the biggest security challenge for london's police force. already on high alert following a series of dawn raids and arrests across the capital. despite security concerns, the pope has maintained a punishing schedule. already he's met the queen, been serenaded by susan boyle, and made strides in healing a centuries-old rift with the church of england. but it's the child abuse scandal that has dominated this visit, as it has pope benedict's papacy itself.
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nina desantos, nbc news, london. tourists tonight are scrambling to leave the island of bermuda as powerful atlantic hurricane igor closes in. as residents brace for the storm, the remnants of hurricane karl continue to spawn flooding across parts of mexico. at least six people have died there while scores of others have been rescued from the rising water. so with that one-two punch, the weather channel's jim cantore joins us now from bermuda as residents prepare for the arrival of igor. jim? >> reporter: yeah, the premiere has set the tone in calling this what is going to be one of the worst hurricanes to ever affect the island. it's going to be a long duration event. look at the satellite picture here. if we were to take this cloud shield and stick it on a map of the united states, it would pretty much stretch from green bay, wisconsin, all the way down to miami. that's huge. so that means bermuda is going to endure tropical storm and hurricane force winds anywhere from 24 to 36 hours, which is a tremendous long time, probably about three to four times what would normally be the case here for a storm. so we're looking at winds even though they dropped down to 100
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miles an hour today, enough, strong enough to do tree damage and also power line damage which is really what they're expecting here to be the main issue. a lot of tree and power line damage. 64,000 people are definitely ready to brace this thing. they were out today admiring mother nature's handiwork, waves forecast to be as high as 40 feet, crashing against the barrier reef. some of those waves will crash as high as 20 feet once they make it to shore. from really later on tonight all the way through monday, it is going to be a long event for bermuda. we are obviously hoping for the best on this tiny island. everything is shutting down as we speak. back to you. >> we wish you and everyone there the best. jim cantore, thank you. in bermuda getting ready for igor. now to the gulf of mexico and the louisiana coast, where residents are hoping they've heard the last from bp's blownout well. nbc's chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson has been following this story from the beginning. she joins us tonight from houma, louisiana. ann? >> reporter: good evening, lester. late tonight, the crew of the development driller 3 will perform a pressure test on the
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cement seal at the bottom of the macondo well. it wants to see if that seal can withstand 1150 pounds of pressure per square inch for about a half hour. if it does, then it's up to national incident commander thad allen to declare this well dead once and for all. before the final pressure test can be conducted, workers had to bring up the drill pipe. coming out in 125-foot sections from the relief well. this is john wright's 41st relief well, but this spill and its impact, he says, make it the most important of his career. >> the fact that it had done so much damage, we were able to help solve and fix something that so many people wanted and needed fixed as quickly as possible. >> reporter: almost five months ago, the macondo well exploded in fire, killing 11 men on the deepwater horizon rig and
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spewing nearly 5 million barrels of oil. bp amassed a small floating city at the site to contain an environmental disaster unlike any in the nation's history. today, just a handful of vessels remain. this chapter of the disaster now ending with the bottom kill. this is what they had to hit, a hole an inch smaller than this dinner plate, just eight inches wide. three and a half miles below the surface of the gulf, and then fill it with cement. on the development driller 3, there was a sense of accomplishment, but for many of the gulf's fishermen, the anxiety remains. donna and junior are shrimpers. >> they can kill all they want, but it's not going to do no good because the oil is already on the surface floor. the damage is done already. >> reporter: that is why there will be no celebrating once the well is officially declared dead. it has simply taken too much. too many lives and too many livelihoods.
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lester? >> anne thompson in louisiana tonight, thank you. in afghanistan today, voters defied violence to go to the polls to elect a new parliament. it's only the second such election since the fall of the taliban in 2001, and the first time afghans have run the process themselves. nbc's john yang joins us tonight with more from kabul. john, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. officials say at least 14 people were killed in taliban rocket and bomb attacks on this election day, but the taliban failed to stop the voting as they had promised to do. in fact, despite a recent uptick in violence here, today was calmer than last year's presidential election, but turnout appears to have been spotty at best. none of the long lines that marked last year's balloting. this was a key test of afghan progress today, not only security progress, but political progress. president obama wants to start withdrawing troops next summer. late today in a statement, top u.s. commander general david petraeus stressed that today the
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afghans were in charge, in charge of security and in charge of the voting process. last year's election, of course, was marked by massive fraud, and observers are already saying there was evidence of fraud again today. so the biggest test will be how the afghan government handles those complaints. and with 2500 candidates running for 249 offices, there's bound to be a lot more complaints to come. lester? >> john yang in kabul, thanks. sarah shourd is headed home tonight, the american woman freed from custody in iran this week after more than a year behind bars, is returning to the united states after a stop-over in oman. before she left she spoke publicly about the two companions she left behind. nbc's ron allen reports. >> reporter: sarah shourd prepared to leave oman full of gratitude to the country that helped gain her freedom. >> i will always associate your country with the first breath of my freedom.
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the sweet smell of sandalwood. and the chance to stand by the ocean listening to the waves. >> reporter: once again, she appealed for the release of her companions. >> please, please extend your prayers to my fiance, shane, and my friend josh. that they will soon be free. >> reporter: iranian officials have said shane bauer and josh fattal, arrested with shourd back in july of 2009 for allegedly crossing illegally from iraq into iran will face trial for spying. the americans claim they were just hiking. in tehran last week, andrea mitchell asked iran's president what evidence exists of spying. >> i think we should let the judge and the court decide about the case. >> reporter: he said on state-run television that the united states should now release several iranians being held in america, and has listed 11 people.
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>> translator: we hope that our dear iranians who are in prison there will be reunited with their families. >> reporter: meanwhile, shourd flies to the u.s. with her companions bauer and fattal still very much on her mind. >> it is my deepest, deepest hope that i will be able to show shane and josh the grand mosque soon, one of the most peaceful and powerful places of worship i have ever seen. >> reporter: her first stop in the united states will be here in new york tomorrow. a visit with a purpose. leaders from around the world, including iran's president, are gathering for the annual meeting of the united nations general assembly. shourd plans to talk to the world's media sunday, trying to keep the world's attention focused on her fiance and friend left behind in iran. lester? >> ron allen, thank you. just ahead of that general assembly meeting, this program note. tomorrow morning on "meet the press" david gregory's guests include former president bill clinton and general colin powell. when "nbc nightly news" continues this saturday, chilling testimony in a home
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invasion case that stunned the nation. later, making a difference. a young mother's extraordinary recovery that is being called a miracle.
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one of the most terrifying murder cases in memory is playing out in a connecticut courtroom. on trial, a man accused of torturing and killing a mother and two daughters in their own home. here's nbc's jeff rossen. >> reporter: in this surveillance video, the final
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picture of jennifer hawke-petit, less than an hour before her death. prosecutors say petit was at a local bank withdrawing $15,000 and calmly told the bank teller her entire family was being held hostage at home. husband william, a prominent doctor, and their two kids, 11-year-old michaela and 17-year-old haley. she said she needed the money for ransom and one of the suspects was waiting in the parking lot. that's when the bank manager made this chilling call to 911. >> we have a lady who is in our bank right now who says that her husband and children are being held at their house and if the police are told, they will kill the children and the husband. she says they are being very nice, they have their faces covered. she is petrified. >> reporter: with good reason. prosecutors say these two men, steven hayes and joshua komisarjevsky, were terrorizing the family, beating dr. petit with a baseball bat and tying him to this pole in the basement.
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his two daughters were tied to their beds upstairs. >> they told us they wouldn't hurt anybody if she got back there with the money. she believes them. >> reporter: but prosecutors say once back home, jennifer petit was sexually assaulted and strangled. then officials say the suspects set the house on fire. the mother and her two daughters were killed. dr. william petit escaped. >> just tried to do the best i could for my family. >> reporter: this week he took the stand, describing in gripping detail his family's final moments. they tied my hands at the wrists and my feet at the ankles, he told the jury. he heard one of the suspects say if he moves, put two bullets in him. petit testified he could hear his wife and children being tortured in another section of the house. i heard them moaning and thumps. >> how emotional was it for you to be on the stand today? >> very emotional. >> reporter: in court an unusual strategy by steven hayes' defense attorney. in an effort to avoid the death penalty, he admits his client
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committed the crime but also points the finger at police, saying officers could have done more to save the family. cheshire police did respond to the petit home but never went inside. on the stand, the police captain testified they followed protocol, telling the jury if we had any indication of violence, i would have been the first one through the door. prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty in a crime that was as brutal as william petit appears strong. jeff rossen, nbc news, new york. when we come back here tonight, new hope for those trapped miners in chile.
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a collision today on the new york state thruway has left at
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least six people dead. the accident involved a church van carrying 14 that collided with a tractor-trailer. seven people were critically injured. in chile, the first of three drills has reached the 33 trapped miners, breaking through to their compartment 2,000 feet below ground. the plan now to make the hole wide enough to bring the men to the surface. that is expected, however, to take weeks. for actress lindsay lohan, it was confession time on twitter. she told fans today she has failed a court-ordered drug test. that could mean more jail time for lohan. viewers of a certain age will find this hard to believe, but it was 40 years ago today that jimi hendrix died in london at the age of 27 of an apparent drug overdose. his legend has grown ever since with previously unreleased recordings still turning up even now. back in a moment with tonight's "making a difference" report. first, a little hendrix at woodstock. ♪
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finally tonight, a remarkable story of love and survival. you're about to meet a young mom who suddenly collapsed and for more than an hour, showed no signs of life. but her husband refused to give up on her. they're together and giving back, making a difference by raising money and raising awareness. nbc's kristen welker has our story. >> reporter: with every step,
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becky is beating steep odds. >> i'm just grateful to be alive. >> reporter: becky almost lost her life this july 1st. she and husband josh were sharing a quiet night at their home when disaster struck without warning. >> she said, "i love you" right before she walked away, and i heard her fall down. that's when i heard her agonal breathing, a medical term, it's not a good sign. >> reporter: but it was a sign josh recognized. incredibly, he's a nurse who specializes in cardiovascular care. >> i actually did cpr for a couple minutes and i realized she's not waking up. >> reporter: at just 28 years old, the mother of three had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. medics rushed to save her. they shocked her 15 times. an agonizing 72 minutes passed with no sign of life. >> i went back to our wedding vows, and i promised her till death do us part, that i would never give up on her. it was like she heard us because
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you know, two minutes later, she actually turned around. >> reporter: becky was breathing but her ordeal had just begun. she was unconscious for another ten days, until finally, she woke up. becky's doctors wrapped her in a hypothermic blanket. the idea is to cool the body and limit brain damage. experts say less than 10% of people survive what becky endured. >> it's a miracle she is where she is at today, based on how long her brain was without any type of blood flow. >> reporter: becky is in therapy twice a week, battling neurological damage which makes it difficult to walk and talk but she is determined. >> i feel like god equipped my husband and myself for this sort of situation, so he prepared us. >> reporter: today, in indianapolis, after less than three months of rehabilitation, becky and josh, along with 55 family members and close friends, walked a full mile in that city's heart walk. team miracle girl, raising money
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for the american heart association and awareness about cpr. a small victory step at the end of a harrowing journey, dominated by two strong hearts and promises kept. kristen welker, nbc news, los angeles. that's "nbc nightly news" for this saturday. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. see you tomorrow morning on "today" then right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com good evening. pg&e faces a possible class action lawsuit tonight in connection with

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NBC Nightly News
NBC September 18, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST

News/Business. The latest world and national news. New. (CC) (Stereo)

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